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Coz Baby You’re A Firework…

Beautiful fireworks are part of what makes Independence Day a favorite holiday for many people.  However, if you have a pet who is afraid of fireworks, or has a noise phobia in general, the loud crashing noises can make for a very long summer.

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Oreo is such an amazing dog; but one of the quirks he’s always had that I’ve never been able to break is his noise phobia.  Specifically, his firework phobia.  He does fine during thunderstorms, but come Summer time and the festivities that come along with it, I have a pretty miserable pup.  Even if the fireworks were popping off in the distance he would become inconsolable.  Each year he shows small amounts of improvement, but I don’t think it’s something he’ll ever completely get over.  This past 4th of July he spent the entire night wedged underneath the dining room table.

Over the years, I’ve tried many different medications to try to help ease his firework fears.  I even borrowed a ThunderShirt from a friend to give that a try – Oreo wouldn’t even let me put it on him.  So I’ve been trying to focus more on behavior modification.  It’s a SLOW process, but as I mentioned earlier, Oreo seems a little less stressed every year, so I think (hope!) that it’s helping him.

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In general, I’ve been using desensitization and counter conditioning to try to help Oreo get used to the fireworks and hopefully eventually associate the noise with something positive.  Initially, upon hearing fireworks, he would hide for the entire night – even long after the fireworks had stopped.  He wouldn’t eat or drink, would pant excessively, and his entire body would quiver incessantly.

The first year I tried simply blocking out the noise, which didn’t really seem to help much.  I’d have the TV on as loud as it could go, hoping the sound of Animal Planet would drown out any booms from fireworks.  That year I also catered to him completely – if he was under the table hiding, I’d be under the table laying with him.  After a few weeks of wondering why there was zero improvement, I realized that I was accidentally rewarding the behavior that I didn’t want to continue.  By showering him with attention and affection while he was stressing, I was in turn showing him that being fearful was a good thing.

Next began the SUPER hard process of trying to ignore him when he was showing signs of fear.  I never have been able to completely ignore him; but rather every half hour or so I’d try to get him to come out from hiding to do something fun.  Going outside for a walk is always his favorite thing to do – but when there’s fireworks even in the distance he won’t step one foot out of the door.  Probably for the best…Oreo has a history of being quite the escape artist, and the last thing I want is for him to get spooked and run away!

So on to his second favorite thing – food.  He would ignore his food bowls, sometimes going a day or two without touching anything in there.  I began playing around to see what I could get him to take, and the one thing that he ate every single time was his dog ice cream.

Currently, since Oreo seems the most content hiding under the dinner table, when there’s a firework show outside I’ve been letting him stay there – putting his dog bed under the table and covering it with a heavy blanket as a partial sound barrier.  Every once in awhile I’ll call to him, and if he comes out to me he gets one of his doggy ice creams.  It’s been pretty effective so far – he’ll stay out from hiding long enough to finish the ice cream, happy licking away and temporarily forgetting about the noise outside.  Keeping an easy-going manner and remaining calm has also done wonders for helping Oreo stay a little bit more relaxed.

Does your dog have a noise phobia?  What have you done to try to help them conquor it?

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1024LoveUsDontEatUs

To veg or not to veg…

I’ve gone 20 years now without eating meat.  A fact that I thought was pretty well-known.  It appears that I was mistaken – it’s been pretty frequent that a friend or coworker has found out, and the look of shock on their face is priceless!  Maybe it’s because I’m not the stereotypical vegetarian.  I don’t care what other people eat, I don’t try to guilt trip people into giving up meat, and I don’t even care if my veggie burger is cooked on the same grill as someone else’s hamburger.

I gave up meat the summer before my 10th birthday, immediately following a family party that involved a pig roast.  The house that we were at was on a farm, and I spent the majority of my day playing with the animals.  I was so happy!  Imagine my complete horror when one of the pigs was shot, killed, and cooked in front of my eyes.  I remember throwing up on the spot and I threw such a tantrum that my parents were forced to leave the party to take me home.  I couldn’t believe what I had just saw!  I was young, and it had never occurred to me what I was putting in my mouth every time I ate a hamburger, chicken nuggets, pepperoni…etc.  I understood where fish came from – and living on the lake, I grew up associating fish with the smell of the dead rotting fish that we’re blessed with smelling on hot summer days.  Fish had been something that I was never fond of.  But it never crossed my mind that every time I had a strip of bacon, it came from an innocent pig.  That a pig had to die so that I could eat.  I was mortified.

When someone first finds out that I don’t eat meat, I always prepare for backlash.  However, while it has definitely happened more often than not, recently I’ve found that the people I surround myself with are pretty great.  Instead of going on and on about how they could never leave with meat, etc; I’ve had several friends express interest in trying out some recipes!  Not to go vegetarian themselves, but simply to expand their own horizons.  I always come prepared with a veggie dish to picnics and parties, but I’ve been so pleasantly surprised lately by the number of meat free dishes that are already there!

As I’m sure I mentioned before, I am a terrible cook.  Just awful.  One day I WILL teach myself how; but for now…if I made something, you probably don’t want to eat it.  Shea, a childhood friend of mine, is the complete opposite.  I follow her blog drooling over her delicious, vegan meals.  For those looking to try out a meal or two, I HIGHLY recommend that you check out her page!  Let me know what you think!

It’’s almost effortless these days to find yummy, healthy vegetarian foods.  Just about any restaurant you go to has some sort of vegetarian option.  Even fast food places are jumping on board – Burger King carries veggie burgers, and Taco Bell even has an entire vegetarian menu on their app!  I do eat dairy products and occasionally eggs, so it is easier for me to find things to eat when I’m out than it is for someone who is a strict vegan.  Eventually I plan on going fully vegan…I just have to kick my love of cheese to the curb somehow.  I heard somewhere that cheese is addictive, and I really believe that to be true!

Just a word of warning before I end for today… For vegetarian pet parents out there, it may be tempting to try to convert your pet as well.  It makes sense.  If you feel strongly enough about it from a health, political, or ethical stand point, it completely makes sense that you might want the same for your pets.  Be VERY careful with this, only switching their diets under the strict care of your veterinarian.

Unlike humans, most animals NEED animal protein.  Here’s what Cornell University says on the subject –

“It means that cats are strict carnivores that rely on nutrients in animal tissue to meet their specific nutritional requirements. In their natural habitat, cats are hunters that consume prey high in protein with moderate amounts of fat and minimal amounts of carbohydrates.”

Dogs can digest and absorb vegetable protein better, but it’s still not usually suggested to switch them away from a meat-based diet.  That being said, there ARE vegetarian dog foods out there, especially those designed for dogs with allergies.  I also know of a handful of people who home cook for their dogs – some vegetarian, some not.  Dogs need a balanced diet, which can be tricky to ensure if you are cooking for them at home.  Again, I can’t stress enough that before making the decision to stop giving your dog meat, PLEASE consult with your veterinarian.

petlossbuddy

They Say Time Heals All Wounds..

“Dogs never bite me. Just humans.”
— Marilyn Monroe

 People love their pets, and most consider them part of the family.  However, I am always surprised to learn how many people give the standard “it’s just a pet” line to someone grieving the loss of their beloved animal.  As if that’s something that will help the other person move on.  Could you imagine saying that to someone who lost a different family member?  “It’s just a kid”.  “It’s just your mother”.  I would hope not.  So why do so many people think that a dog, cat, etc isn’t as worthy of such grief as a human is?   The world around me simply does not understand that Buddy was not “just a dog” and that I cannot “just get a new one.”

It got me thinking… Today marks 3 months since Buddy passed on to the Rainbow Bridge.  The grief I feel for him is still so raw.  I don’t think a single day has gone by yet that something hasn’t reminded me of him and forced me to fight back tears.  More often than not, I wind up on the losing side of that fight.  The callous way some people approach the subject of pet loss made me wonder – Am I doing something wrong?  Am I not grieving properly?  Is that even such a thing?

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Realistically, I know better than that.  I treat my pets as if they were my biological children.  I celebrate their birthdays, confide in them when I need someone to talk to, carry pictures of them in my wallet.  I have more photos of them on my phone than I do of anyone or anything else.  So I can only assume that it’s natural that I would feel more intense grief than someone who viewed their dog as just that…a dog.  I know that the grieving process is unique to each and every individual person.  For some it may only last a matter of days, for others the grief may feel overwhelming for weeks, months, maybe even years later.

So what helps us to move through the period of mourning, to get to a point where you can remember your beloved fur babies with smiles instead of tears?  For me, knowing that I work with some of the most incredible people in the world, who understand exactly how I am feeling definitely helps.  They have lost their own pets, deal with the loss of loved patients almost daily, and most importantly for me at the moment…I know that they loved Buddy just as much as I did.  It really helps knowing that when I’m at my wits end and don’t think that I can pull myself together for the remainder of the day without breaking down, that they get it.  That I can talk to them and they won’t judge me.  That they would NEVER throw out the “it’s just a dog!” line, because they are exactly like me when it comes to loving their animals…loving their furry children.

petlossbuddy

I also like to create little memorials for my pets.  I have their ashes and paw prints close at hand, and pictures all over of them.  It’s hard when looking at them still brings me to tears, but as time goes on, I can look at the photos and smile…knowing that as long as they are in my heart, they will always be with me.  The memorial that was made for Buddy at the animal hospital is absolutely perfect.  I sneak away fairly often to visit him here and talk to him.  I can’t leave at the end of the day without stopping to say goodnight to him.  Looking at his face in this picture brings me to tears every time.  It’s just such a perfect capture of his personality and spirit.  He was always SO happy, and you could always see in his eyes how much he loved you.  How much he loved EVERYONE.

grief

Ever since I was little, I have chosen to believe that shooting stars are a way that loved ones let you know that they are still there watching over you.  My Grandpa was the most important person in the world to me growing up…I lost him when I was 10.  Each year on his birthday there is a meteor shower (Geminids).  The night that one of my best friends was killed there was the Perseids meteor shower.  Each year it falls on/around the day I lost him.  When I’m having a particularly rough night, I will always go outside for a walk, look up at the sky, and talk to one of the people or pets that I have lost.  Almost always, I’ll see at least one shooting star before I make it back home.  Even if in reality it may just be a coincidence, it makes me feel better.  It makes me feel as though the person/pet I was talking to heard me, and that it was their way of responding.  Maybe it’s a silly thing to believe in, but honestly…I don’t care.

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OreoHappyMothersDay

Warm Wishes For Mother’s Day!

“Happiness is a warm puppy.”
Charles M. Schulz

BurgerMothersDay

“Mother’s Day” Question:
How do you feel about people making the statement that they are their pet’s “Mommy” or “Daddy”?

I saw an article written not too long ago shaming people who referred to animals as their children.  To be honest – that post made me see red.  It is my choice (and that of others) to refer to our pets as family members.  Pets are not just something that you throw in a closet when you’re not paying attention to them.  They are not toys.  They are not there to be paid attention to only when it is convenient for you.  They have feelings.  They rely on you for food, shelter, entertainment, and most importantly…for love.  Just like children, pets require your attention and your money.  Some people can’t have human children, and some people just don’t want them.  I honestly don’t think I could ever love a human child as much as I love my dog.  I am a GREAT pet mom…but I think I would be a TERRIBLE human mom.

So, why is it that people take it upon themselves to be upset about what others choose to refer to their pets as?  Why does it bother you that there are humans out there that care enough about their pets to call them their kids?

Anyway.

Pet Moms can feel a bit left out when it comes to Mother’s Day.  I mean, it’s not like your cat or dog supposed to sneak out of the house to buy us a gift or card!  And no one has ever said, “Happy Mother’s Day mom, I love you!”   But then I got to thinking…  it seems as though Hallmark had to create a holiday to ensure that kids remembered to thank their moms and show their love and appreciation at least once a year.  Dogs and cats do that EVERY day!  When was the last time a human child greeted you at the door, so happy to see you that his entire body was vibrating with joy?  And cats don’t need a reminder to cuddle up next to you, kneading your shoulder while purring in your ear.  So while cards and gifts are nice (and yes, I bought my mom both!), maybe pet Moms are the luckier of the bunch.  The tinge of loneliness and the feeling of being forgotton on Mother’s Day is all in my head, afterall.  All I need to remember is the devotion and affection my furry babies show to me each and every day.

Perhaps one of the biggest perks of having only furry children is that I never have to deal with the sudden outbursts.  They don’t yell things like “I hate you” or “I wish you weren’t my Mom”.   Of course, our dogs aren’t going to take care of us when we’re old, so there’s that significant downside. However, with all the money we’re saving from not having kids, we should hopefully be able to save up for a home in a nice retirement community!

The lifespan of dogs and cats is short, just a flicker, compared to a human.  While during those few short years there are plenty of ups (puppy breath!  catnip play time!) and downs (illnesses and injuries), I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  I know that one day the pets I have now will leave me just as the ones before them did…leaving a huge hole in what used to be a whole heart.  I try to make the best of every day with them, because I never know when they will be too old to want to go for a walk, or too sick to want to chase the laser pointer.  The saying that “a parent should never have to outlive their child” unfortunately does not get to apply to pet Moms and Dads.  Take advantage of the time you have, every day.  Make sure to spoil Fido with extra long walks and plenty of dogbones, and keep a fresh supply of cat scratchers and cardboard boxes in stock for Fluffy.

I’ll be working on the bucket list that I made for Oreo very soon.  Photos and stories to come.  I’m trying to come up with one for Burger as well; but thinking of exciting adventures to go on and goodies to try for a kitty isn’t half as easy as it is to come up with for a pup!

Until next time — Happy Mother’s Day to all of the Moms out there – both with furry and non-furry kids!

oreo buddy

Wordless Wednesday – Buddy and Oreo

Tribute To A Best Friend
“Sunlight streams through a window pane
unto a spot on the floor….
then I remember,
it’s where you used to lie,
…but now you are no more.
Our feet walk down a hall of carpet,
and muted echoes sound….
then I remember,
It’s where your paws would joyously abound.
A voice is heard along the road,
and up beyond the hill,
then I remember it can’t be yours….
your golden voice is still.
But I’ll take that vacant spot of floor
and empty muted hall
and lay them with the absent voice
and unused dish along the wall.
I’ll wrap these treasured memorials
in a blanket of my love
and keep them for my best friend
until we meet above.”

It’s little moments like this that I miss the most.  Can’t believe that Friday will be two months since you left us.  Missing you so much today, Buddy 🙁

A photo posted by BURGER (@burgerthekitty) on